What Your Patients are Hearing

App, role-playing used as interventions


Help for people with mental health and substance use issues has become more accessible now that the Georgia Crisis & Access Line launched a mobile app. The aim of the My GCAL app is to guide people to free and confidential access, and the targets are those who would rather send a text message than speak to someone over the phone. In Georgia and elsewhere, this tends to be younger people. “We are trying to be proactive,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. “We need kids to know that it’s okay to text if you need help. We have to remove that stigma.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A teenager in bed looks at her mobile phone. maewjpho/Thinkstock

Ninth-grade students at the Uplift Hampton Preparatory school in Dallas have been taking part in classroom sessions where role-playing activities are helping them spot the signs of depression in themselves and others. “It’s kind of like ‘Mental Health 101,’ ” said Tony Walker, senior director of student support services at Uplift Education, in an Associated Press article published in the National Post. “So they talk about depression and anxiety and just common mental health issues, and then I think the most important thing is they talk about what to do if you feel that way.” The Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) program, administered by Madhukar H. Trivedi, MD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center is offered to all 9th-graders in the 20-school Uplift Education network in the Dallas area. The program, consisting of five 45-minute sessions, originally was developed at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Columbia University in New York. A similar initiative offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) teaches students the warning signs of mental health problems. Since the NAMI program launched in 2014, it has reached almost 450,000 youth in 41 states. National Post.

Identifying the source of students’ frustration and anger can prevent them from lashing out, according to a National Public Radio report. But responses rooted in compassion can help diffuse potentially tragic outcomes. The report describes the story of a young man whose struggles started in middle school. An encounter with bullies left him with severe damage in his right eye, and he spent his high school years getting into fights. After school officials stepped in, acknowledged that he had reasons to be angry, and connected him with a mentor who was able to talk and reason with him, the young man graduated on time. He’s now 25 and works full time for a security firm. “Moving kids from despair to hope. That’s the bumper sticker for what we do,” said school psychologist John Van Dreal. The approach “really works,” he added. NPR.

An exhibition now running at the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines is helping patrons explore the reality of mental illness. The Mental Health: Mind Matters exhibition is intended to show the real lives of people with mental illness, with the hope of inspiring better appreciation and empathy. It features audio renderings of what the world can sound like to someone with psychosis, walk-through rooms that take patrons inside the homes of people with depression, and exercises that inspire worry or fear, as well as photography. The aim is to take the patron inside the heads of those with mental illnesses. “A possibility now exists to utilize a constellation of exhibits like Mind Matters to revolutionize understanding, prevention, and wellness nationally, all while unlocking economic benefits and advancing human dignity,” wrote Paul Piwko, the author of an article describing the exhibit. Des Moines Register.

Students are creating a dialogue about suicide awareness and prevention at Gardner (Kansas) Edgerton High School. At a recent basketball game with Shawnee Mission West High School, Gardner Edgerton team members, students, cheerleaders, and fans donned T-shirts emblazoned with “#ZeroReasonsWhy.” The student-led campaign is aimed at encouraging students to seek help rather than consider suicide. At the game, T-shirts and bracelets also were handed out to Shawnee Mission West players in an effort to spread the message. The Kansas City Star.

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